2¢ on Communication and Globalization

February 27, 2012

@batuhanapaydin published his interpretation of relationship between communication and globalization today. His point, in brief, is that drawing borders is human nature, ipso facto increased communication cannot simply surpass that (And like that, poof. it‘s gone.) and beget globalization.

(Popular scene from the cult movie The Usual Suspects.)

The article is in Turkish (and ironically, that supports his point). I partially disagree with him, nonetheless he has some interesting points. Therefore, I saw this as a potential blog post opportunity. I’ll try to summarize his remarks before stating my own, (Italics are me translating+paraphrasing his article).

He preludes the article stating the general interpretation of increased communication via internet (and other communication channels that are in cooperation with internet) as globalization, then he indicates the reinforcement of globalization via approximating effect of liberalization after The Cold War.

The radical change in scale of our interaction compared to our ancestors make us realize how small we are in this new multi-dimensional network, so we gather around smaller networks, small enough to make us feel safe and important, small enough to let us influence the network or avail the influence of the leader, he states. One’s role in social media is not something completely new, but simply a shape-shifter of one’s past role in society, on sync with historic recurrence. There is change, but it is not globalization. Globalization is abandonment of borders, but human kind actually varies in physical and behavioral properties.

In my humble opinion, a definition of globalization that abandons even the classification according to relevance of subject is a wrong one. I agree with his view on borders being a fundamental part of human nature, but not all kinds classification grow out of that animal characteristic, it is also not necessarily driven by our behavioral or physical differences (or at least I hope so). Furthermore, I think definition of globalization never meant to involve a specification of simple relationships based on self-interest.

The fact that social media, which is considered a consolidation of globalization, actually consists of groups, hence borders, goes unnoticed. We, as individuals, create our own groups, circles, lists; we choose who to interact or not; we desperately try to increase the amount of people who are actually similar to us. This is not a global evolution, but a multilayered evolution.

Friendship/subject based marking of people on a network is a functional necessity to control the “relevance” of information flow through our feeds, hence should not be considered grouping or an act of finding similarities. Groups however, as in Facebook, are different. His interpretation fits here. For this reason I want to elaborate on the usual motivation behind group creation in Facebook: Carried away with the advertorial profit popular groups in social media can offer, some idiots move heaven on earth to create a million member groups, and some eventually succeed. The mere activity of “liking” these groups should not be interpreted as a way of drawing borders, but a way of minor additions to self-identification in case defined intellectual similarities can actually make someone else like that particular individual a little more. Unfortunately, the case with actually “active” groups created around irrational subjects (e.g. 1K people that hates x, where x is some gender, nationality, or any other subject to discrimination) is more than I can handle in the range of this post. I would love to be hyperlinked to some statistics on group usage on Facebook to discuss more.

We do this because it is fun, and it helps us control the relevance of information we are constantly exposed to (and [here] is a recent post of mine about this particular issue), in order to prevent losing our minds; but it becomes a pattern in time, it turns into an involuntary struggle of survival, acceptance and recognition, as it was with our ancestors.

Agreed, the habit of classification in social media can lead to tendency of actual grouping, as a side-effect. I need to emphasise the fact that classification, dismissing that possible side-effect, does not relate to any kind of anti-globalization by itself. Also, that side-effect is not actually a result of the concept of classification, but a result of exploitable grouping functionality provided by some services, especially Facebook.

Furthermore, I think the globalization driven by increased communication is not -and do not need to be- supported by human nature. We don’t actually celebrate the globalization, we struggle to keep up with it (as the author also states). I am sure we actually want to draw those real borders time to time, so we can feel safe again, but we don’t (and won’t) do it, because the origin of our species does not kindly ask us to draw borders in order to survive again, instead it mandates us to survive without them if this is the definition of “fittest” in communication era, which I believe is.

We call it globalization, but we grow our natural habit of classification on this new medium, under the illusion of globalization. Nonetheless, these should not be considered signs of a pessimistic future. This is our process of pursuit in order to string along with radical change. The bottom line is, we have never been without borders. Social media provides borders, they are just a little less visible.

Regardless of social media, internet is -and has always been- a means of globalization, however our civilization is not at the peak of globalization. I believe the main reason is because globalization is not highest-priority for the companies behind mainstream social-media platforms. The term “global” is merely a scale for them that means “more people”. The day that we can actually discuss the effect of social media on globalization is the day that state of social media is mostly decentralized, free from corporate profit. In the meantime, we should keep in mind that the process is corporate-driven as also is user-driven.


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